“In cases like that of the novel coronavirus, for which we have neither an effective treatment nor a vaccine, interventions must go back to the basics, including simply keeping individuals from one another by prohibiting large gatherings, closing schools and asking people to stay at home. The graphic above illustrates the extraordinary effect that the timing of social distancing policies can have on an outbreak’s death toll.
On March 16, the White House issued initial social distancing guidelines, including closing schools and avoiding groups of more than 10. But an estimated 90 percent of the cumulative deaths in the United States from Covid-19, at least from the first wave of the epidemic, might have been prevented by putting social distancing policies into effect two weeks earlier, on March 2, when there were only 11 deaths in the entire country. The effect would have been substantial had the policies been imposed even one week earlier, on March 9, resulting in approximately a 60 percent reduction in deaths.”